After the miserable 2016-17 season which saw the club relegated to the fourth tier for the first time since 1958, four managers and some of the worst stats imaginable, albeit enlivened by a winning trip to Wembley in the Checkatrade (Football League Trophy), it is a pleasure to report an upturn in the club's fortunes. Promotion from League Two, despite finishing sixth, the best FA Cup run for nine years, with a Premiership scalp in round three, not to mention a new goalscoring hero in the shape of 28-goal Marc McNulty who outscored many of the striker heroes of the past fifty years.
It was City’s first promotion for 51 years and there is a direct correlation between McNulty’s scoring records and those of Bobby Gould, George Hudson and Ray Straw in City’s other post-War promotion seasons.
It took the Sky Blues some time to adapt to League Two football but with a subtle mixture of experience (Doyle, Kelly, McDonald, Stokes), some promising young signings (McNulty, Biamou,Hyam, Davies, Grimmer) and of course the home-grown products (Willis, Burge, Bayliss, Shipley) the team finished the season in good form and carried it on in a stunning fashion in the play-offs. The Sky Blue conveyor belt continued to throw up outstanding talent and Bayliss and Shipley would have barely featured on the average fan's radar this time last year. The two local boys took to first team football remarkably and barely missed a game between them after coming in to the side in the late autumn. Mark Robins deserves all the accolades for taking the side straight back up but one cannot overlook the contribution that Academy Director Richard Stevens has made to the club's success this campaign.
Games: Coventry City played 58 competitive games, 46 league, 5 FA Cup, 1 League Cup, 3 Football League Trophy (Checkatrade Trophy) and 3 Play-off games.
Points: The Sky Blues gathered 75 league points during the season – the first time the club has reached 70 points in a season since that three points for a win was introduced in 1981. If three points for a win had been in place before 1981 City's total of 75 would have been the fourth highest in their league history). However under the two points for a win City would not have qualified for the play-offs.
Home Form: 13 wins, 4 draws, 6 losses. 13 home wins was the best haul since 1986-87 when 14 were won (out of 21 games). 43 points equals the number won in 2005-06 which was the best since 1986-87. The defeats were largely surprising – to the two promoted clubs, Newport and Forest Green, and the debacle against Yeovil. The club recorded eight consecutive home wins between December and February, the club's best run since 1954.
Away Form: 9 wins, 5 draws, 9 losses. After winning only 8 away points the previous season this was a massive improvement and the third highest total of away wins in the club's history. The team were able to end the Swindon bogey and win there for the first time since 1960 but still can't win at Notts County in the League where the last victory was in 1963, but more than outweighed by the 4-1 play off win. No team scored more than two goals against City in away league games.
Wins: In total therefore, 22 league victories were recorded – the highest since City won the Second Division title in 1967 with 23 (from a 42 game season). It was two short of the highest for a 46-game season – set in 1958-59 in Division Four.
Biggest win: The biggest league win of the season was 6-1 at Cheltenham in the penultimate league game of the season. This equals the highest post-war away win achieved three previous times.
Biggest defeat: The 2-6 defeat at home to Yeovil was the heaviest defeat and only the second time in their league history they have conceded six in a home game. It was the biggest home defeat since Tranmere won 5-1 at Sixfields in 2013-14.
Goals for: The goals for total of 64 was 27 more than the previous season but three less than in 2015-16 when city finished eighth. Between February and April the team scored in 14 consecutive games, the best run since the start of Mark Robins' first spell in charge in 2012. However the team went 457 minutes without scoring in October, the worst run since 2002.
Goals against: City conceded 47 league goals, the lowest since the club left the Premiership in 2001 and equals the lowest conceded in a 46-game season. The team kept sixteen clean sheets in the league, that's two short of the club record set in 1938-39 and equalled in 1958-59. Lee Burge kept 14 clean sheets, the best since Steve Ogrizovic's 15 in 1987-88. Oggy's record came from 38 games, Burge kept goal for 39.5 games.
Final position: The final position of 6th was the highest final position since 6th place in the old Division One in 1969-70. After the first two games of the season they were never above 3rd place spending just 12 days in the automatic promotion positions in the remainder of the campaign.
Leading scorers: Marc McNulty was leading scorer with 28 goals, twenty three in the regular league season, one in the FA Cup, two in the FL Trophy and two in the play-offs. McNulty scored more league goals than any player since Bobby Gould hit 24 in the 1966-67 promotion campaign. His total goals is the best since George Hudson netted the same number in all competitions in 1963-64. Terry Bly scored 29 in 1962-63.
Max Biamou, despite a slow start, was runner up with nine goals (5 league, 4 cup & other). Sixteen different players were on the score-sheet during the season.
Doubles: City achieved six doubles- over Swindon, Carlisle, Cheltenham, Grimsby, Crewe and Wycombe. That equals the club record in a season, last achieved in 1969-70. Three teams beat City home and away: Forest Green, Yeovil and Accrington.
Appearances: For the seventh season running no outfield player was an ever present in the league – the last to do so was Richard Keogh in 2010-11. Michael Doyle started the most (44) followed by Jack Grimmer (42) and Marc McNulty and Lee Burge (40). When all competitive games are included Grimmer (53) pips Doyle by one. McNulty with two sub appearances appeared in 52 games.
Players used: 29 players were used in league games (the lowest number for seven seasons) and further six appeared in cup games. Of the 35, 19 players made their debuts during the season and five made only one appearance. Four loan players were used (four less than in 2016-17) and the lowest for a number of years. In addition to the 35 players used, six more, Corey Addai, Darragh Leahy, Reice Charles-Cook, Tom Bilson, Jak Hickman and Reece Ford, sat on the bench as substitutes but were not used.
City continued the recent trend of using a high number of players. 34 or more players have been used in 15 seasons of which 12 have been since being relegated from the Premier League 17 years ago. City bucked the trend however by having a good season!
19 debuts is the equal 9th highest in City’s history and of the 11 seasons where 19 or more debuts have been made 9 have been since relegation from the Premier League. The only other seasons in that list were inevitably City’s first eventful season in 1919-20 and then 1926-27 when the club moved from Division 3 North to South.
In the 17 seasons since falling out of the top flight 311 players have made their City debut at an average of 18 per season. Compare that with 313 players making their City debut in the previous 41 years from 1960 to 2001 at an average of 7 per season.
Oh for some stability!
On the opening day of the season nine City players made their debut, seven in the starting line-up and two subs. This is the most since 10 made their City debut versus Northampton on the opening day of the 1926-27 season.
994 players have represented the club in competitive games since the club joined the league in 1919 and the 1000 milestone is likely to be reached next season.
Home-grown players: Of the 35 players used 14 of them were home grown products of the Academy. It is now more than seven years that a City team did not include a home-grown player. On several occasions seven academy products represented the club during a game and there were seven in the Wembley squad.
Of note was the full League debut of Devon Kelly-Evans against Exeter when he got the nod after Stuart Beavon pulled up in the warm-up and proceeded to score the second goal in a 2-0 win.
Records: Michael Doyle rejoined the club and his 52 appearances took his total appearances for City to 349 and up to equal 10th place in the club's all-time appearance chart, alongside 1950s defender Roy Kirk. Doyle has also played more league games in his career than any Irish-born footballer apart from Dennis Irwin. Jordan Willis with 169 games is now 69th on the club's all-time appearance chart, two behind Gary Breen & Dion Dublin). Lee Burge is the only other player who has topped 100 appearances. The Morecambe game was his 100th league game and in total he has played 119 games.
Victory over Chesterfield 1-0 at home on New Year’s Day ended a run of 10 consecutive home League games without a win on 1 January that dated back to a 4-0 win over Stoke in 1985.
Substitutes: Max Biamou made the most substitute appearances (22, 19 league and 3 cup). Jordan Shipley was the most substituted player (19 times). Seven goals were scored by substitutes: Shipley & Nazon (Luton a), Nazon (Lincoln a), Biamou (Newport a and Yeovil h (2)) and Ponticelli (Notts Co. a). Biamou is only the sixth City player to score two after coming off the bench and equals a record of three goals from the bench in a season previously achieved by Marcus Tudgay, Andy Morrell & Patrick Suffo.
Average attendance: Home 9,255 (2016-17 9,203), up 0.5% & the highest in League Two. Away 5,211 (2016-17 8,163), down 36% & the third highest in the division. If away fans are stripped out, City's average home following was 8,434 up 2.3% from 8,243.
Highest home attendance: The biggest official league crowd was 28,343 for the Accrington game in February but the actual attendance was more like 21,000 with many free tickets not being used. It still counts as a record crowd for a League Two game since the reorganisation of the league in 2004. The false crowd will also go into the record books as a record for a league game at the Ricoh topping the 28,184 when Leeds visited in 2010-11. The Accrington game apart there were three games where the home element topped 10,000 – 15,090 v Morecambe, 14,648 v Notts County (play-off) and 10,587 v Stoke (FAC).
Lowest home attendance: The lowest league crowd of the season was 6,151 for the Carlisle game in September - the lowest league crowd at the Ricoh. Cup crowds were generally very poor with just over 5,000 watching the League Cup-tie with Blackburn. In the FA Cup the two home ties with non-league opposition each attracted around 3,000. In the Checkatrade Trophy there were two attendances under 2,000 including 1,425 for the dead rubber with West Brom.
Away followings: For league games City’s away following averaged 1,268 (2016/17 806), an increase of 57%. The best league following of the season was 4,149 at Notts County. In the FA Cup City took almost 8,000 to MK Dons and 4,500 to Brighton. The smallest was 339 for the trip to Exeter in January but there was a severe restriction on tickets because of ground developments and a good number of City fans were in the home areas. Lincoln brought the most fans (3,324) to the Ricoh in April whilst Stoke topped that in the FA Cup with 3,612. At the other extreme, Crawley brought only 159 fans to the league game whilst Shrewsbury (129) and West Brom (43) bought miniscule followings in the Checkatrade (FLT) Trophy, the latter the lowest away following since the Ricoh opened in 2005.
Highest away attendance: The biggest away league crowd was at Notts County (10,316). This was topped in the play-off game (17,458). The crowd at Brighton for the FA Cup game was 26,966, the largest crowd to watch a City away game (excluding Wembley) since 2014 when over 59,000 watched the Sky Blues at the Emirates in the FA Cup.
Lowest away attendance: The smallest away crowd was 1,773 at Morecambe when with 708 City fans the home element was just over 1,000. It was the lowest away league crowd since 1932 when 1,215 watched City at Thames FC.
Won from behind: (2) In league games City came from behind to win twice at Swindon and Lincoln. On five occasions the team came from behind to get a draw Crawley (h), Mansfield (a), Newport (a) Walsall (FLT) (a), Notts Co (play-off). Twelve points were won from losing positions, eight more than last season.
Lost from in front: (0) City never lost after scoring first – the last time they achieved this was 2006-07. In three games City took the lead only to be pegged back for draws. Four points were lost from leading positions compared to 23 the previous season.
Best run: The Sky Blues best run was seven unbeaten in February and March. Following defeat at Colchester they won four games and drew three.
Worst run: After two disastrous runs in 2016-17 the Sky Blues never went more than four games without a win in 2017-18.
Hat-tricks: (3) For the first time since 1977-78 the Sky Blues recorded three hat-tricks. Back then Mick Ferguson scored all three. This season McNulty scored two (Grimsby and Cheltenham) and Jodi Jones the other (Notts County). McNulty is the first player to score two league hat-tricks in a season since David Speedie in 1988-89.
Jodi Jones became the 6th City player to score an opening day hat-trick and the first for 20 years when Dion Dublin scored all City’s goals in a 3-2 win over Chelsea.
Opposing hat-tricks: (0) Three Yeovil players managed a brace each in the Glovers 6-2 victory at the Ricoh but no one scored a hat-trick.
Former Players: This season no former players scored in a league game but former loanees Dominic Samuel (Blackburn) and Daniel Agyei (Walsall) netted in Cup games.
Own goals: For City: (1) Troy Brown of Exeter was credited with an own goal in the home league game.
Own goals: By City: (0)
Penalties: For City: (8) McNulty converted seven out of eight attempts with his only miss coming at Carlisle. Clarke-Harris scored the other. In addition City won the penalty shoot-out at Walsall in the Checkatrade (FLT) Trophy which was the first time City had been involved in an ABBA-style shoot out.
Penalties: Against City: (5) Five opposition players netted from the spot - Jacobsen (Wycombe h), Ogedi-Uzokwe (Colchester a), Eisa (Cheltenham a), Adam (Stoke h FAC), Ismail (Walsall a FLT). No opponents missed penalties.
Fastest Goal scored: 70 seconds: Tom Bayliss scored after 70 seconds in the home game with Cheltenham, his league debut. It was the fastest league debut goal since Wayne Andrews' 23rd second goal in 2006 but the fastest by a starting league debutant since Ron Newman in 1956. McNulty's goal against Stevenage was timed at 90 seconds.
Fastest Goal conceded: 55 seconds: Matt Rhead smashed in Lincoln's opening goal in the 4-2 defeat in April after just 55 seconds. In the home game with Yeovil the Sky Blues conceded three goals in the first 15 minutes – the worst start to a game since 1956.
Red cards: Coventry: (2): Rod McDonald (Port Vale h) and Jordan Willis (Mansfield a). Tom Davies received a retrospective ban after the Notts County home play off game.
Red cards: Opponents: (8) This high number reflects the lengths that some teams had to go to in order to stop City playing football. The culprits were: Berrett (Grimsby a), Bolton (Shrewsbury h), Weir (Chesterfield a), Dunne (Swindon a), Lapslie (Colchester h), Rea (Luton a), Wiseman (Chesterfield h), Wilkinson (Stevenage h).
FA Cup: The Sky Blues ended their miserable run of three successive knock-outs to lower status clubs by defeating two non-league clubs and then proceeded to eliminate two clubs from a higher status (Stoke and MK Dons) to reach the Fifth round for the first time since 2009. It was the first time they have defeated two clubs from a higher status since 1963 and the two scalps make it eight in 99 years! The victory over Stoke was in terms of difference in league placings, the Sky Blues biggest win since they joined the Football League in 1919.
Postponements: The Lincoln home game on the first Saturday of March fell foul to the 'Beast from the East' with the match postponed on the morning of the game. This was the first ever postponement at the Ricoh and the first City game called off because of weather since 2002.
Bookings: Unsurprisingly Michael Doyle won the award for most bookings, 14. He avoided a yellow cards for the first nine games and also avoided a suspension but once the early deadline was over he was back in form racking up five in the last seven games.
Television: There were four live televised games for the club, the away game at Barnet, two playoff semi finals and the Wembley play-off final.
New Grounds: City played competitive games at five grounds for the first time: Barnet's Hive Stadium, Accrington's Crown Ground , Forest Green's New Lawn, Rodney Parade, Newport and Whaddon Road, Cheltenham. In addition they played a league game at Cambridge United for the first time
Wembley: only three of the side that won at Wembley in the Checkatrade final started the play-off final: Burge, Willis and Stokes. Reid came on as sub to make it four.
The final at Wembley on 28 May was the latest finish to a season, beating 26 May in 1947 (after postponements in a torrid winter) and the famous 1985 finish against Everton.
With many thanks to Paul O'Connor